A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa, 1958)

Katamari Fujiwara, Minoru Chiaki, Misa Uehara, and Toshiro Mifune in The Hidden Fortress
Gen. Rokurota Makabe: Toshiro Mifune
Tahei: Minoru Chiaki
Matashichi: Katamari Fujiwara
Princess Yuki: Misa Uehara
Gen. Hyoe Tadokoro: Susumu Fujita
Gen. Izumi Nagakura: Takashi Shimura
Lady in Waiting: Eiko Miyoshi
Farmer's daughter: Toshiko Higuchi

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto
Cinematography: Kazuo Yamazaki
Production design: Yoshiro Muraki
Film editing: Akira Kurosawa
Music: Masaru Sato

There's a kind of boyish glee in even the title, The Hidden Fortress, promising secrets and surprises. This rousing, entertaining, and, yes, occasionally silly adventure story is remembered most today for inspiring George Lucas on the first Star Wars film, which is now clunkily known as Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope (1977). From Akira Kurosawa's film Lucas borrowed the spunky rebel princess and the fretful, quarreling sidekicks, and renamed them Leia, C3PO, and R2D2, but more importantly he borrowed the insouciance, the delight in cinematic action. For once, Toshiro Mifune's bravado doesn't steal as many scenes as it usually does, thanks largely to Kurosawa's employment of the disgruntled foot-soldiers Tahei and Mataschichi, whose cynicism, venality, and outright greed serve as foils for the heroics of Mifune's Gen. Rokurota. Like the first Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress never rises to the level of serious thought -- in fact, it's more straightforward fun than the Lucas oeuvre: There's no mysterious Force to suggest spiritual overtones and to weigh down the adventure with mythmaking.

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